S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Francois, Hauptmann Hugo von (geography)

Born: 12 May 1861, Reichenbach, Germany.
Died: 13 March 1904, Namibia.

Hugo von François, younger brother of Curt von François*, was a German military officer like his father and grandfather before him. After becoming a second lieutenant in 26 Infantry Regiment at Magdeburg in 1882 he was attached to the colonial section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, as was his brother. In 1889 he was sent to the British Port of Walfish Bay in command of a small German force to serve under Curt in securing the German presence in the territory that is now Namibia. He arrived in Walfish Bay in June 1889 and for the next few years accompanied his brother on several journeys throughout the region. These included a journey eastward to Lake Ngami in January to March 1890. In October 1890 he was given much of the resposibility for establishing a settlement and erecting a fort at Windhoek. In December he accompanied Curt on another journey, this time to the Waterberg and Okavango River. He returned before his brother, following a different route that took him via Omaruru and Otjimbingwe back to Windhoek in January 1891. The next month he was officially requested to report upon the conditions for German settlement near Windhoek. He reported favourably, mainly because the region had few inhabitants, a relatively abundant water supply and good pasture. In March 1891 he left on patrol southwards to Hoornkrans, the headquarters of the Namas under Hendrik Witbooi, returning via Rehoboth. Like Curt he made detailed notes during his travels. He also collected plants, which ended up in Berlin.

Hugo published an account of his journey to the Okavango in Mitteilungen aus den deutschen Schutzgebieten in 1891, describing among others the hydrography and vegetation of the region. In 1896 he published his memoirs in a book, Nama und Damara. Deutsch-Süd-West-Afrika. This was followed two years later by another paper, on travels in the Kalahari, published in the Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde, Berlin.

Hugo was promoted to lieutenant in 1891 and married while on home leave in 1892. He left German South West Africa in 1894 and was promoted to Hauptmann (captain) two years later. In 1898 he resigned and in 1901 returned to the territory to become a farmer near Windhoek. During the Herero rebellion in 1904 he acted as military commander of the town and was killed in action.

List of sources:
Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 1, 1968.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Kienetz, A. Nineteenth-century South West Africa as a German settlement colony. PhD thesis in social geography, University of Minnesota, 1976. Facsimile by University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1977.

Venter, R.J. Bibliography of regional meteorological literature. Vol. 1. Southern Africa, 1486-1948. Pretoria: Weather Bureau, 1949.

See also Francois, Curt Carl Bruno von.

Compiled by: C. Plug